MUTARE – Several illegal diamond panners have been mauled by dogs belonging to Zimbabwe’s State-run Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) in the east of the southern African country, bringing back memories of the horror killings that characterised the claims about a decade ago.

The Centre for Natural Resources Governance (CNRG), which is headquartered in the city of Mutare, which is close to the diamonds field said at the weekend that those behind the injuries of artisanal miners must be held to account.

The artisanal miners were apprehended by ZCDC’s guards after setting vicious dogs on them while panning for diamonds near Mbada Hills in Marange.

“We are appalled by the continued use of torture and killings as punishment against artisanal miners by state security agents and the state owned ZCDC guards,” CNRG executive director Farai Muguwu said.

“The guards ordered them to sit down at gun point, handcuffed and set vicious dogs on them, leading to serious injuries. The artisanal miners were denied food and access to ablution facilities. On 10 August, an artisanal miner was caught panning in the company of his colleagues. Whilst others managed to escape, he was caught and his hands were tied and dogs set on him till he lost consciousness. The use of torture and cold-blooded killings are meant to act as a deterrent to keep artisanal miners away from Marange. However, despite the torture, thousands of artisanal miners continue to flock to Marange diamond fields daily as they try to escape from the debilitating economic crisis engulfing Zimbabwe,” he said.

Muguwu wants the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and ZHRC to help in the successful prosecution perpetrators of human rights violations and bring an end to the impunity they enjoy.

“Soldiers have sometimes teamed up with miners and broken into ZCDC premises where they steal diamond ore. ZCDC guards charge anything between $500 and $2000 to facilitate entry of artisanal mining syndicates into diamonds fields,” he said.

“Violence only takes place when artisanal miners enter the diamond fields without bribing the security guards, and not a single guard has been arrested for the killings.”

Following the discovery of diamonds in Marange in June 2006, the police and army have used brutal force to control access to the area.